Tuesday, 25 March 2014

on altering faces

I've noticed, although I am slightly reluctant to admit it, that talking with people here I write with a slightly different 'face'. I read myself say things like "oh you must" and "it's darling" that I would never say in any other context. It makes me wonder to what extent our sense of self (through language) changes in different contexts and among different groups.

Clearly we change how we write in an academic context, having to avoid contractions or using the word 'I'. I find myself always writing "indeed, ..." in essays, something I would never say or write anywhere else. But when you are making point upon point, it makes sense to adapt language to fit need.

But it interests me the way that I take on a slightly different persona writing with different groups of people. It's in human nature to mirror what we see around us - like how often in stressful situations people copy the body language of those around them. And it is true that in many cases I mirror other people's speech habits. But with so many altering faces, I wonder what it is that defines me. It's likely that this altering of tone and voice is something I do subconsciously when speaking aloud, but having a written account really makes me aware of how I change and what defines me - as a writer (in the informal sense) and as a person. I wonder whether finding this balance of flexibility vs continuity and working out what in my language marks who I am is something that will naturally develop as I get older, or whether identity through language is something that has to be consciously sought.

I guess in many ways it is the same with authors: they try out different settings, different voices, different styles. But throughout there is some essence of who it is they are as a writer.

I have no answer or conclusion here, or any real question for that matter, just thought I'd share some thoughts...

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